About Paul Voermans

These pages contain a mixture of personal stuff and writing-related snippets. Quite a bit of old poetry, because I seldom put it up any more, though I still indulge.

My Wikipedia page does give a fair bit of background on me, so for an overview head there.

I began writing at about four, standing up in my bed beneath the top bunk, on the wall. I seem to recall my mum­­—who wrote herself and left us a book of speeches and an unfinished memoir—not punishing me. That was something. Punishment was a feature of our household.

The second youngest and only boy of seven children I was definitely spoiled. Such attention is a two-edged sword, not merely in expectation. My parents put aside a little each year—my mother, as my dad lost his job and punched the boss or punched then fled at least a couple of times I recall—till I was sixteen. I had attended the first Australian World Science Fiction Convention in 1975 and bumped into Ursula Le Guin (literally, and all I could say was sorry!) and somehow found out that the writing workshop she had conducted would have a sequel. Not as a prelude to a world fan event, but to the national convention, and not held in a leafy Dandenongs retreat, but at Monash University, almost next door to our home in Clayton. It was the precursor to Clarion South.

I sent a story to them, called “The Teratologist” because the word was amazing to me, containing the idea that before death one might live forever in that moment, so if only the moment were not hellish, it could be wonderful. I got in! There followed begging my parents for permission to raid this small amount for the fees. Also, a Smith Corona manual, which I must have read about in John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar. This I took to live in at the Monash halls of residence, where I met a gang of other young writers more talented and hardworking than myself. We had weeks with George Turner, Vonda McIntyre, and Christopher Priest. Kitty Vigo and I dropped in a Women’s Weekly story as our own for the daily crit session. I smoked hashish. I was published.

After that, I almost failed HSC, but got into the RMIT Journalism course, possibly the only one available at the time, so I suppose I had done or at least talked well enough. Late for the first lecture—on punctuality—I quit and accepted my second preference, Drama and Film at Melbourne State College, reasoning with some force that journalism was not good for my writing, but to to be honest I had missed out on a job at The Age by a whisker, as well as at The Truth and the Herald (Sun), where they had detected I did not have it in me. Thank goodness. I did not know what I had in me. I just wanted to leave Melbourne, Australia, possibly the planet.

After attempting all three, I dropped out and started a theatre company with a number of rather socialist and medievalist performers, reviving commedia dell’arte, Punch and Judy, and carrying on the timeless tradition of punk idiocy, using mime, puppets, song, poetry, and the rain of blows upon one another. We worked for unions, to provide a focus other than violence at demos. We performed at the Adelaide Fringe, in schools, at many of the blooming street festivals blooming round Melbourne, and for the lovely Library Council. We pulled a huge wooden chariot equipped with a puppet booth and portable acting backdrop. We busked, stopping traffic in Russell Street in front of the cinemas by performing all the films presented—unwatched—in a few minutes. On Malcolm Fraser’s dole, struggling, my partner and I lived next door to The Zorros in Brunswick, in one of a number of skanky terraces where a suitcase of busking coins came in handy. My mate Karl and I did Dobba, a silent, violent, Waiting for Godot for preschool children. Those were the days.

At this point, I decided to shelve writing fiction for theatre, which we improvised around scripts mostly written by poor Don Ashby, whose work we mangled joyously. I performed Don’s Twelfth Night as a giant silver alien whose neck extended as he grew horny. As it happened, I had met Don at the 1977 writers’ workshop; it emerged he had helped to organise it. We both dropped out of Drama Melbourne.

Slowly, it dawned that if I got organised I could make a living. By 1983, I did, with a bit of film and TV. And a solo show called AAARRRGGGHHH! with which I toured three states in Marilyn Mazda, a 1976 sedan, all financed by BankCard. Briefly I worked as a mechanist at the Victorian Arts Centre and saved the money to quit the country just as the Bicentennial of invasion got up steam. Briefly, I studied acrobatics in Barcelona, under Rogelio Rivel. Briefly, I worked as a butler in London.

In the early 90s, “The Beastie in Man” was published in London by FEAR. “The Girl Who Stole the Current Buns from the Space-Time Kitchen” was published by Aurealis.

My first novel, And Disregards the Rest, was bought by Richard Evans at Victor Gollancz. Written in a wardrobe, I seem to recall,on a single roll of paper, on another Smith Corona that had been purchased so I did not go mad working in at the Bristol Arnolfini as assistant bar manager, at the South West Health Authority as a cleaner, and at Barrow Gurney Psychiatric Hospital, in the cook and chill cold room and making egg sandwiches during the salmonella scare. Three jobs a day, six days a week. So at lunchtime, I sat outside the insurance company (another job, my first on computers) writing. I hid in the loo writing, after pretending to clean them. Later, I wrote in the smoking room at Waterstones, Charing Cross Road. I had gone after work in the theatre but my only audition, for a circus, I’d fluffed, as I’d only ever done one before, for ABC TV’s Trapp, Winkle, and Box. I had to support my partner through the Bristol Old Vic directors’ course, this time without the dole, in Thatcher’s Britain where you could earn a pound an hour in pizza joints before “tips” and car contacts said they didn’t rent to performers. So I fell back into science fiction, after concluding I was too shy to attend conventions, and too young to write about anything.

My work has always been about work. So what did I write about?

<–end of part one–>